workforce preparation

3 predictors of students’ workforce confidence

A survey reveals how different student groups view their workforce preparation

Just roughly half (53 percent) of students believe their major will lead to a good job, according to a nationally-representative survey of 32,000 students at four-year universities.

Only one-third of students said they think they will graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the job market (34 percent) and in the workplace (36 percent), according to the Strada-Gallup 2017 College Student Survey.

The report points to a skills gap between higher ed and industry; 96 percent of chief academic officers said they believe their institution is very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the workforce, but just 11 percent of business leaders strongly agreed.

Seven major findings emerged from the research.

1. Student confidence in their workforce preparation differs across majors. STEM majors expressed the most confidence that their chosen
field of study will lead to a good job.

2. Nontraditional students feel more prepared than traditional students.

3. Students receiving career-specific support feel most confident about their workforce preparation.

4. Nearly four in 10 students have never visited their school’s career services office or used online career resources, including more than one-third of seniors. Though juniors and seniors are more likely than first- and second-year students to have used their career services office, still, 35 percent of seniors say they have never used this resource.

5. Career services resources are particularly helpful for underrepresented and underserved student populations.

6. Students receive helpful advice about courses and programs from academic advisers, but less so about careers and postgraduate options. Among current college students, 46 percent said their academic advisers provide very helpful guidance about which courses to take and 39 percent said academic advisers offer very helpful advice about choosing a major/minor. About three in 10 students said academic advisers are very helpful in identifying career options (28 percent) or graduate degree programs (30 percent).

7. Advising is most helpful to underrepresented and underserved student populations. Black and Hispanic students, as well as first-generation college students and nontraditional students, rate the help they receive from academic advisers more highly than do their counterparts.

The survey also uncovered three commonalities among students who have significantly more confidence in their workforce preparation:

1. Students speak often with faculty or staff about their career options.
2. Students have at least one university official initiative a conversation with them about their career options.
3. Students believe their school is committed to helping students find a rewarding career.

Students often don’t use the resources that are the most helpful, according to the report.

“This report demonstrates that university professors, staff members and institutions can provide career-specific support that exhibits a strong relationship with students’ confidence in their preparation for life after college,” the authors wrote. “Moreover, students seek a variety of resources from their school’s career services office, though some of the most-valued services are often the least used. Many students also find the guidance they receive from academic advisers about choosing courses and majors to be beneficial, but receive less help from advisers relating those academic decisions to potential career options.”

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Laura Ascione